Muzzleloader 101
Extreme Accuracy Techniques

The man who got me started in muzzleloading was a champion level marksman. He once told me,
  • "All you have to do is put in exactly the same amount of exactly the same powder. Put in an exactly identical ball on exactly the same patch and press it down with exactly the same pressure. Put an identical cap on the nipple, hold the gun in exactly the same manner with exactly the same sight picture, pull the trigger with exactly the same speed and force holding you beeath exactly the same way and the bullet will go in exactly the same hole."

There are two kinds of accuracy. Hunting accuracy requires hitting a four to six inch circle at somewhere between 25 and 250 yards. It is zeroed so that the peak of the ballistic path is around the top of that circle. Closer and the rising bullrt is in the vital zone. Furthe and the drop crosses the vital zone. The shooter needs to know how far out the bottom is and have the skill to adjust the sight picture to hit the game or the gong. The target shooter is shooting for a much smaller circle but at one known distance and usually has a longer time window.

This appendix is aimed at the shooter who aspires to consistently score a 100/10X. Nobody actually does it of course, but 97s and 98s win in high level target shoots. I never shot this well, but finding out how it is donesatisfies my curiosity and, I hope, yours.

Keep Notes
Get a nice sturdy notebook. Keep accurate notes, especially during load development. If you do it electronically back it up. I once heard a champion target shooter say that, when he reviewed his notes, he found that the worst shot was always number 6 (of 13) and nows makes a point of extra care with the sixth shot.
Wipe after every shot. One pass with a damp patch and once with a dry patch. Common ingredients for the damp fluid include water, alcohol, Murphy's Oil Soap, Ballistol and others I do not now recall. Some are used alone, some in blends. Ask any 10 shooters and get 10 recipes. I use dilute alcohol with a bit of Murphy's but admit I just accepted that from a reliable source. Fool around a bit during load development but only one tested formula on competition day.
Powder Vials
Measure your charge in the usual manner (by volume) and pour it into your powder measure pan to check the weight. If the weight varies by very much, pour it back and remeasure. If it is OK, pour it into a small vial ready to load. Some events (like 4H) require measuring at the bench. Read the rules in advance.
Ball and Bullet Matching
Weigh all the balls in the box. At this level you will probaly be using swaged, not cast balls because the sprue is inconsistent in weight and loading position. Pick 20 very evenly matched balls and set them aside for the tournament.

Bullets will probably need to be sized and then weighed. Expect a greater weight variation due to the length.

Patch and Ball Fit
The diameter of patched ball must fit the bore tightly with the patch pressed into the grooves of the rifling to spin the ball. Bigger ball or thicker patch will get a tighter fit, but too tight and the groove edges can cut the patch giving irregularity and blowby. You also need to be able to push it down without a hammer. Typically, balls are widely available in one size but .005 bigger or smaller can be found. Three shot groups with two ball sizes and two patch thicknesses can be a happy afternoon's shooting. If you ever see someone in a fabric store using a micrometer on the cloth go talk to him. Almost certainly a fellow muzzleloader.

An ineresting sidelight on this subject is that some barrel makers used shallower grooves for lead bullets which are forced into the grooves during loading. Deeper grooves could let some gases to blow past he bullet. This could influence patch optimazation, probab;y toward a thinner patch. If your barrel has a 1:38 or 1:48 twist it probably was designed for both bullet and ball. These probably will not stabilize a sabot.

Drop Tubes
Drop tubesare usually a brass tube with a funnel on the end. It is placed into the bore so that the powder drops all the way through the clean dry tube all the way to the chamber precluding any being trapped by fouling or damp and thus varying the charge.


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